After months of news reports about greed, illegal activity in the financial markets and the failure of numerous regulatory systems that were supposed to protect people without power it’s easy to feel powerless. But the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center offers a substantial list of accomplishments for 2008 that give a body a reason to get fired up and prove again the power of collective action.
In our world:
Nuclear Weapon Free World Veteran Cold War Warriors Sam Nunn, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and George Schultz all have called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. They have been facilitating meetings with all nuclear-weapon possessing states throughout the year, making it clear that “if the nuclear powers wish to be safe from nuclear weapons they must surrender their own.” Four Countries Pledge to Go Carbon Neutral Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, and Costa Rica sign on to the UN Environmental Program’s Carbon Neutrality network. 99percent Iceland’s homes already use geothermal or hydropower. www.yesmagazine.org
Landmark Win for Guantanamo Detainees! In June, the U.S. Supreme Court (5-4) ruled that Guantanamo detainees have the right to challenge their detention in federal courts and that congressional legislation has failed to provide a reasonable substitute. www.ccrjustice.org Pennsylvania says: “Sweat Shops Need Not Apply!” Pennsylvania is the first state joining the State and Local Sweatfree Consortium. Over the summer, Gov. Rendell signed the landmark, first-in-the-nation, resolution which prohibits purchasing from sweatshops and promotes vendors and factories that meet standards for labor and human rights.
www.jwj.org Huge, Very Huge Victory for Clean Air In November, Sierra Club effectively shut down 30 proposed coal-fired power plants by winning a victory before the EPA Environmental Appeals Board which would require all coal-fired power plants to use Best Available Control Technology for carbon dioxide. www.sierraclub.org
Prison Reform Congress passed the Second Chance Act in March which provides $362 million on programs of education and job training for prisoners and their families to help prevent recidivism. The bill also offers alternatives to prison for parents convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. www.yesmagazine.org
Closer to home:
Recycling Workers Go Green Workers at the Cincinnati Rumpke Plant spent 2008 educating our community, city policy makers and local activists about their low paying, dangerous and insecure jobs, which includes sorting the city’s recyclables. They inspired the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, the Sierra Club, the Blue-Green Alliance and many other local supporters to join the demand for a living wage for this “green collar” work and for a large increase in city-wide recycling. They won significant concessions from Rumpke regarding fees and safety conditions, and the city is developing a Request for Bids on a new recycling contract that guarantees a living wage ($4.00/hour increase from the their current minimum wage), and worker input into health and safety issues, as well as large increase in diversion from the landfill.
Ohio Voters Pass Issue 5: Retain Limits on Payday Loans Voters approved a new payday lending law that cuts the annual percentage rate that lenders can charge to 28 percent and limits the number of loans customers can take to four per year. It is among the strictest laws in the country. Congress passed a 36 percent cap protecting military from this practice, and 15 states plus the District of Columbia also have chosen to control predatory lending by enforcing interest rates in that range. www.responsiblelending.org/press/releases/
CPS School Levy Passes! In March, after a spirited campaign led by parents, community groups, and labor unions, a much needed Cincinnati Public school levy was passed - overcoming significant opposition.
Leave No Child Inside Movement Grows in Cincinnati From school gardens to green playgrounds, a national movement has taken root in Cincinnati to get children outside for healthy play. www.lncigc.org
OTRCH Begins Permanent Supportive Housing Project Over the Rhine Community Housing “has received a grant of $987,743 from the Federal Home Loan Bank, through Union Savings Bank, to transform five buildings on Odeon Street into housing for the chronically homeless. There will be a single point of entry for the 25 units, with 24-hour engagement staff. The Odeon Street Permanent Supporting Housing Project, the first in this area, is based on a harm-reduction model successfully used elsewhere in the country. The concept is basically to house the homeless first, then work on sobriety and other issues. (Streetvibes)